McLaren Cars (since renamed McLaren Automotive) is an automaker founded in 1990 with the object of producing road cars based on Formula One technology. It works closely with the Team McLaren Formula One constructor and is part of the McLaren Group.
While McLaren as an organisation clearly looks forward, this does not mean that our heritage is not important to us. The foundation of McLaren is based in racing and the enviable success that we have achieved both on and off the race track.
McLaren is the only race team to have won Formula 1, Indianapolis 500, Can-Am and Le Mans championships. This racing record combined with our clear determination to succeed in the future to be the very best in the world of Formula 1, and in road cars, is what sets us apart from any other manufacturer.
This vision, and passion, has remained throughout the organisation from its very beginning. The story of McLaren began when Bruce McLaren, in 1963, founded his own race team.
Bruce McLaren was passionate about both racing and road cars. In 1959 he became the youngest driver in Formula 1. At 22 Bruce had become the youngest-ever winner of a World Championship qualifying Grand Prix race. As a racing driver he was universally admired as being straight, fast and above all utterly dependable.
After many successful seasons with Cooper, Bruce started his own team with great determination and vision. His first car was a heavily modified Cooper Zerex, (originally raced by Roger Penske) fitted initially with a 2.7 litre Coventry-Climax four-cylinder engine and then with a 3.9 litre Oldsmobile V8.
Known as "The Jolly Green Giant" it was, in all but name, the first McLaren sports car. This car led to the development of McLaren?s original Group 7 sports car, the McLaren M1A. Demonstrating immediate potential McLaren continued to develop this car, entering the M1B in the Canadian-American (Can-Am) Challenge Cup following new Group 7 restrictions imposed by the RAC in 1966.
Having finished third overall McLaren mounted a renewed Can-Am effort for the 1967 season. Designed by Robin Herd and Gordon Coppuck the McLaren Orange painted M6A burst onto the Can-Am scene. Bruce took the championship that year taking a total prize purse of $500k. Of the six race calendar McLaren claimed six fastest laps, qualified six times on the front row, took five pole positions and won five races.
McLaren continued to dominate the series, winning the championship 5 times in total between 1967 and 1971. In four seasons of Can-Am McLaren won 32 races out of 37. This domination reached its peak in 1969 when the McLaren team had a perfect season, winning 11 out of 11 Can-Am races.
That year McLaren also had eight one-two finishes, and 1 one-two-three finish. With Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme at the wheel of the all conquering M8B, McLaren's involvement in Cam-Am had become known as the "Bruce and Denny Show".
Following this success in Can-Am Bruce turned his attention to building a road car. According to Eoin Young, "Building his own road car was a project that had interested Bruce as an ambition to be achieved when the company was well under way with the racing programme".
After a five year on-off project Bruce realised this dream in 1969, just before his untimely death at Goodwood on June 2, 1970. The M6GT stands as testament to his passion and vision to enter the world of super sports cars. Eoin Young pays tribute to Bruce?s passion and vision in this 1999 Racing Line article.
In 1970 Bruce McLaren lost his life doing what he loved - driving racing cars. Bruce's former press secretary and journalist Eoin Young remembers the man who gave his name to the team.
This article originally appeared in Racing Line, the McLaren Group Magazine.
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